The letter TET

Tet, the 9th Hebrew letter has a literal meaning of basket or nest, and is the symbol of the good טוב in all creation. It has to do with purity and impurity, teaching us to choose the good, and also the realization that even within the bad things that happen, there is hidden good. Tet also represents femininity, pregnancy. It includes the kindness and mercy of creation and the principle that everything is eternal and nothing is ever lost.

Tet’s essence is feminine, representing the number 9 for the 9 months of pregnancy, and shaped like a womb, a spiral, a container where things change and transform. It is the field of manifestation, the essence of the feminine that contains all in her. The infinite is contained in Tet and it brings about the finite.

The Tet contains the Hesed (kindness and mercy) of creation. It teaches us to distinguish between the good and the bad, and by choosing the good to clean and purify and thereby to do that which is impossible, to erase the bad deed that was done. It contains the principle that nothing is lost, nothing is wasted, and all is eternal. The Tet is the container that creates the ability of Tikkun – that all souls are attracted to life with one purpose – to restore all to good as at the beginning.


The tet is the initial letter of the word tov, "good." The form of the tet is "inverted," thus symbolizing hidden, inverted good--as expressed in the Zohar: "its good is hidden within it." The form of the letter chet symbolizes the union of groom and bride consummating with conception. The secret of the tet (numerically equivalent to nine, the nine months of pregnancy) is the power of the mother to carry her inner, concealed good - the fetus - throughout the period of pregnancy.

Pregnancy is the power to bring the potential to actualization. The revelation of new, actual energy, the revelation of birth, is the secret of the next letter of the alef-beit, the yud. The yud reveals the point of "Essential Life" as realized in the secret of conception of the chet and carried, impregnated, in the tet.


Of the eight synonyms for "beauty" in Hebrew, tov--"good"--refers to the most inner, inverted, and "modest" state of beauty. This level of beauty is that personified in Torah by Rebecca and Bat Sheva, who are described as "very beautiful [goodly] in appearance."


At the beginning of Creation, the appearance of light is termed "good" in G-d's eyes: "And G-d saw the light was good." Our Sages interpret this to mean "good to be hidden for the tzadikim in the Time to Come." "And where did He hide it? In the Torah, for 'there is no good other than Torah.'"

The Ba'al Shem Tov teaches that the "Time to Come" refers also to every generation. Each soul of Israel is a potential tzadik (as it is said: "and your people are all tzadikim"), connected to the goodly light hidden in Torah. The more one actualizes his potential to be a tzadik, the more goodness he reveals from the Torah "womb."

In the first verse of the Torah - "In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth" - the initial letters of "the heavens and the earth" spell G-d’s "hidden Name" in Creation (alef-hei-vav-hei), according to Kabbalah. The numerical value of this name is seventeen, the same as that of the word, tov, "good." The word tzadik equals 12 times 17 = 204, the total value of the twelve permutations of the four letters of this hidden Name. Tzadikim, who are called "good," possess the power of the hidden Name (derived from "the heavens and the earth"), the hidden goodness needed to unite heaven and earth and thereby reveal the inner light and purpose of Creation. Just as the alef possesses the power to bear opposites - the power of the firmament to join the higher and lower waters together - so does the tet possess the power to unite the upper and lower worlds, "heavens and earth." Chassidut teaches that in the service of the soul, this power is manifest in man when he assumes the state of being "in the world yet out of the world" simultaneously. To be "in the world" means to be fully consciousness of worldly reality in order to rectify it. To be "out of the world" means to be fully aware that in truth "there is none other besides Him."


Another connection between light and good is found in the story of the birth of Moses: "And she [Yocheved, Moses’s mother] saw him that he was good." Rashi quotes the Midrash, which explains that at the birth of Moses a great light filled the room. According to the early Masorah, the tet in the word tov ("good") of this verse is written extra large. This hints at the Absolute Divine Good entrusted to the soul of Moses, whose life mission was to fulfill the promise of redemption from Egypt and the revelation of Torah at Sinai. The Egyptian exile is compared to a womb in which Israel was latently pregnant for two hundred and ten years. At Sinai, heaven and earth were united, as viewed in the letter alef. 


Thus, the full teaching of the tet is that, through the service of the soul, all of reality becomes "pregnant" with G-d’s Infinite goodness and beauty, thereby bringing harmony and peace to "heavens and earth."


Tet is the way of nature (Teva) – the way of goodness (Tov). Tet always continues to search for its way. It is connected to a journey and to the search for truth; a constant struggle, a thirst to know. Its weakness can be in not recognizing the truth, even when it is found, due to the indefatigable motive of searching for the way towards it. Tet, therefore, says to the searchers of the way, look around and acknowledge the great truth through the small things you encountered on your way, for the nature of things already lives inside them and you, and you might continue searching without seeing the light around you. Do not cease to explore even if you have completed one journey, because completeness can immobilize you from proceeding.



Tet suggests new birth each time – each time we complete a process at the end of the 9 months of pregnancy. Therefore, it is pointless to continue to cling to successes or to failures, for both are impediments. It is best to look for the small successes of the future in the future, rather than continue to carry on our backs the great successes of the past. New birth suggests the shedding of another placenta each time, for what protected you thus far, might poison you from this point onward.